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Chapter 6 Regional and social dialects

→ It focuses on information conveyed by language variation in monolingual communities. → People use language to signal their membership of particular groups: •

Social Status




Types of social networks people belong.

Situation: Telephone rings. Pat

: Hello.


: Hello, is Mark there?


: Yes. Just hold on a minute.

Pat (to Mark) : There’s a rather well-educated young lady from Scotland on the phone for you.

Pat ( Based on the situation, (while answering the phone), one can make several good guesses about various characteristics of the speaker, such as: (a) Whether it is a children’s voice. (b) Gender of the caller. (c) Distinctive regional accent (d) Socio-economic or educational background.


1. There is no two people can speak exactly the same, as there are infinite sources of variation in speech. 2. Judging by a sound spectrograph (which represents the sound waves of speech in visual form), it states that even a single vowel may be pronounced in hundreds of minutely different ways, most of the time which the listeners cannot even register. 3. Speech characteristics within languages serve as a unifying and separating function for their speakers. The pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary of Scottish speakers of English vary from the people from England. ‒ E.g. of Scotland’s English •

Other regions -


Type of variation in English pronunciation


Letter r is pronounced. (as in words like girl and star)

Sentence like I’ll not do it, instead of “I won’t do it”.


[beg], [ma:rp] and [bod] for words bag, map and bad.

North England

Same pronunciation of vowel of bath as in sat.


Dropping of initial of [h] to show lower socioeconomic background for words like house and heaven.

Use of grammatical pattern like: -they don’t know nothing them kids -I done it last week.

Regional variation International varieties 2|Page

A British visitor to New Zealand decided while he was in Auckland he would look up an old friend from his war days. He found the address, walked up the path and knocked on the door. ‘Gidday’, said the young man who opened the door. ‘What can I do for you?’ ‘I’ve called to see me old man Don Stone,’ said the visitor. ‘Oh he’s dead now mate,’ said the young man. The visitor was about to express condolences when he was thumped on the back by Don Stone himself. The young man had said, ‘ He’s dad now mate’, as his father came in the gate.

There are stories of mistakes based on regional accent differences.

Example:- Pronunciation Ear

Place of origin

The Actual Word

How Like


New Zealand













Example:- Vocabulary Place


Different Place

Word in that different Place


Sole parents


Single parents

New Zealand

Solo parents

South African



Traffic light


Wellies – New Zealand Wellington boots

Gummies (gumboots) 3|Page

New Zealand

Togs – swimming Britain outfit

Tog – formal attire for formal occasion

Intra-national or Intra –continental variation Rob: This wheel’s completely disjaskit. Alan: I might could get it changed. Rob: You couldn’t do nothing of the sort. It needs dumped.

This conversation took place between two Geordies (people from Tyneside in England) is likely confuse many English speakers. •

The double modal – might could is typical Geordie, it is heard in some parts in Southern USA.

The expression needs dumped – typical Geordie, also used in Scotland.

‘disjaskit’ – vocabulary – meaning – ‘worn out’ or ‘ completely ruined’

Dialect differences within a country involve grammatical usages and lexical items as well as pronounciation. •

In UK, some dialects, like Scouce, Cockney and Geordie have distinct names showing how significant they are in distinguishing groups from one another.

Within London, the Cockney dialect is quite distinctive with its glottal stop [?] instead of [t] in words like bitter and butter.

In USA, dialectologists identify distinguishing features of the speech of people from different regions: Northern, Midland and Southern.

Eg: In rural Appalachians, one can hear pronunciations such as across and clifft, as well as a-prefixes such as a-fishin’ and a-comin’. 4|Page

Words for dragonfly in Eastern States includes – darning needle, mosquito hawk, spindle, snake feeder, snake doctor and snake waiter. (In New York, only darning needle is used.)

New York has further developed two new variants dining needle and diamond needle.

The high level of intral-national communication, with relatively small populations, may have inhibited the development of marked regional differences in these countries.

Eg: In New Zealand, there are greater differences among the Maori dialects than within English, reflecting the longer period of settlement and more restricted means of communication between people from different Maori tribes before European settlers arrived.

Eg: Maori pronunciation of words written with an initial wh, differs from one place to another. The Maori word for ‘fish’ is ika in most areas but ngohi in the far North and kirikiri refers to “gravel” in the west but ‘sand’ in the east of New Zealand.


Cross – continental Variation: Dialect Chains Example 5:

A: Italy B: Rome C: Paris D: France E: Chambery Note: − Rome is in Italy where they speak Italian 6|Page

− Paris is in France where they speak French Situation: Miriam learnt French and Italian at university and was a fluent speaker of both. As part of her course she was required to study for 3 months in Paris and three months in Rome. She decided to travel across France (Paris) to Italy (Rome). As she travelled, she could understand the French of Dijon and Lyon. But as she moved further from Paris she found the French was more difficult to follow. Near the border between France and Italy, in the town of Chambery, she could not be sure what she was hearing although she had no trouble making herself understood. In Italy, she found that the Italian spoken in Turin and Milan was very different from the Italian she had learned. As she approached Rome, however, she gradually began to comprehend more of what she heard. In Rome, she finally found similarity between the way she spoke and the way the Italians around her spoke.

What is cross – continental variation: dialect chains? 1. Languages “blend” into one another.

2. The French spoken near the border towns and villages of Italy has more in common with the language of the next village (Italy) than the original language of Paris.

3. From one village and town to the next there is a chain or continuum.


4. Dialect chains are very common across the whole of Europe – Regional dialects involve features of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar which differ according to the geographical area the speakers come from.


Example 6:

A: Beijing B: Guangdong Situation: Ming, an old woman who grows vegetables in a rural village near the town of Yinde in Guangdong Province in southern China can only speaks her own dialect of Chinese, which is Cantonese. Last summer, Gong, an official from Beijing in the north, visited her village and he spoke in Mandarin, another type of Chinese dialect. Ming could not understand a single word Gong said. 1. A language can be thought of as a collection of dialects that are usually linguistically similar, used by different social groups who choose to say that they are speakers of one language which functions to unite and represent them to other groups.


2. All the linguistically different Chinese dialects are still being defined as one language, which is the Chinese language. Social Variation Received Pronunciation (RP): A Social Accent 1. Received Pronunciation – the accent of the best educated and most prestigious members of English society. (Higher class people)

Figure 1.1 Social and regional accent variation. (Reproduced from Trudgill 1983a: 42)

2. As the triangle suggests, the linguist will find most linguistic variation at the lowest socio – economic level where regional differences abound. 3. As the social ladder increases, the amount of variation reduces till it reaches the peak of the triangle (RP) – an accent used by less than 5% of the British population 4. As the social class variation increases (upper class people), the regional variation reduces until it stops at the peak of the triangle (the speaker only uses RP).

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5. However, today a more accurate diagram might have a somewhat flatter top, suggesting accents other than RP can be heard amongst those who belong to the highest social class. 6. In modern era, it is certainly possible to hear more than just one accent associated with the highest social group even for those who are well educated.

Social Dialects Just as RP is a social accent, so Standard English is a social dialect because it is used by well – educated English speaker throughout the world. •

Standard English

Example 8: a) I’ve not washed the dishes yet today. b) I haven’t washed the dishes yet today.

− Standard English is more accommodating than RP and allows for some variation within its boundaries. A speaker of Standard English might produce either of the sentences in example 8 above.

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− Just like RP, Standard English is used by prestigious social groups.

− Since non – standard forms are associated with the speech of less prestigious social groups, the label inevitably acquires negative connotations. However, it should be clear that there is nothing linguistically inferior about non – standard forms.

− To avoid the implication that non – standard forms are inadequate deviations from the standard, some sociolinguists use the term vernacular as an alternative to describe non – standard English. − Vernacular language is different from Standard language. i.

Vernacular language tends to be learned at home and used in informal contexts.


Lack of public or overt prestige, though they are generally valued by their users because it can be used to express solidarity and affective meaning.

Social status Castes •

People use different social dialects that can be grouped together on the basis of similar social and economic factors.

It is easiest to see the evidence for social dialects in places such as Indonesia and India where social divisions are very clear-cut.

In these countries, there are caste systems determined by birth, and strict social rules govern the kind of behavior appropriate to each group.

Not surprisingly, these social distinctions are also reflected in speech differences. 12 | P a g e

A person’s dialect reflects their social background.

Examples Example 1 •

Indian language

Caste Brahmin

Non- Brahmin

s Languages Kannada








Example 2 •

Javanese language o Javanese social status is reflected not just in choice of linguistic forms but also in the particular combinations of forms which each social group customarily uses. o The varieties or stylistic levels that together make up the group’s distinctive stylistic levels. o In Javanese, there are six distinguishable stylistic levels.



Stylistic level 13 | P a g e



















Table : Two Javanese words at different stylistic levels

Social class Vocabulary •

The term social class is used here as a shorthand term for differences between people which are associated with differences in social prestige, wealth and education.

Class divisions are based on such status differences.

So class is used here as a convenient label for groups of people who share similarities in economic and social status.

People from different social classes speak differently.

The most obvious differences in vocabulary are in many ways the least illuminating from a sociolinguistics point of view, though they clearly capture the public imagination.

Example 14 | P a g e

English people




sitting room










Word’s choice

Pronunciation Examples Example 1 Marjorie Lee lived in what she described as ’a new large hideous Edwardian mansion’. Her father was la lawyer. Her mothers had been one of the first women students at Canterbury College, part of the University of New Zealand. Marjorie went to Miss Barber’s Private School until her early teens when she was provided with a governess. George Davies lived with four members of his family in a small house. His mother was a solo parent whose steady income came from ‘keeping grandmother’. Illustrating this he recounted that they sometimes took palings off the fence for firewood, and ‘you could pretty well tell the state of the family finances by whether Grandma’s inlaid brooch was in the pawn shop or not. •

The two recordings were analysed to see whether there were differences between speakers in terms of the numbers of [h]s they ‘dropped’ in words like house.

The person that recorded it found that Marjorie Lee did not omit a single [h] while George Davis dropped 83 percent of the [h]s which occurred in his interview.

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The speakers’ different social backgrounds were clearly reflected in this feature of their speech.

This speech variable is widely called [h]-dropping –a label which you should note reflects the viewpoint of speakers of the standard.

Example 2 •

The way different pronunciations fall into a pattern reflecting the social class of their speakers was first demonstrated by William Labov in a study of New York city speech which is now regarded as a classic in sociolinguistics.

Some of the linguistic features he studied have been found to pattern socially in English-speaking communities all over the world.

The pronunciation –ing vs –in at the end of words like sleeping and swimming, for instance, distinguishes social groups in every English-speaking community in which it has been investigated.

In each community, people from lower social groups use more of the vernacular [in] variant than those from higher groups.

Social group










West Yorkshire





New York










Table: Percentage of vernacular [in] pronunciation for four social groups in speech communities in Britain, America, and Australia. 16 | P a g e

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The variable pronunciation of r in words car and card, for and form divides the communities in regions and also social status.

In some regions, pronouncing [r] is part of the standard prestige dialect like in Scotland, Ireland, Boston, New York and in other areas they do not.

The higher a person’s social group, the more [r] they pronounce. In the other, the higher your social status the fewer you pronounce.

Post-vocalic [r] in New York city is considered prestigious while in Reading in England it is not.


The way New Zealandese pronounce their vowels. HIM  HUM JIM  JUM PILLS  PULLS

Labov developed a scoring system which involved giving a score to different pronunciations according to how close they were to the prestige pronunciation or standard in the community.

1 ‘Broadest’ New Zealand pronunciations (lowest social groups)



4 Pronunciation closest to RP (highest social groups)


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The pronunciation of

a linguistic form often alters in different linguistics

contexts. •

The table below shows that not only [l]-deletion differ between the social classes, it also differs according to the grammatical status of the word in which it occurs.

[l] is almost disappeared in Montreal French in impersonal il.

Another factor is the surrounding sounds which also affect [l]-deletion. It is more likely to disappear before a consonant than before a vowel.

il (impersonal)


Working class







e.g. il pleut ‘it is raining’

il (personal)

e.g. il part ‘he is leaving’


Source: Reproduced from Sankoff and Cedergren 1971:81

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Below are the examples of standard and vernacular grammatical forms used by several English-speaking communities.



Past tense verb form

1. I finished that book yesterday. (S) 2. I finish that book yesterday. (V)

Present tense verb form

3. Rose walks to school every day. (S) 4. Rose walk to school every day. (V)

Negative forms

5. Nobody wants any chips. (S) 6. Nobody don’t want no chips. (V)


7. Jim isn’t stupid. (S) 8. Jim ain’t stupid. (V)

There is a relationship between the grammatical speech forms and the social groups who use them.

The higher social groups use more standard grammatical forms. In the sentences above, (S) represents standard grammatical forms while (V) represents vernacular grammatical forms use by lower class speakers.

Sentence (6) shows a multiple negation in grammatical feature where it is frequently used in lower-class speech.

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Chapter 6 Regional and Social Dialects